The Cows Are Out – On the Lawn!

Previously published in Lancaster Farming A call comes in at the conservation district for farmer and nutrient management planner, Jessica Heim, from a well-intentioned neighbor saying that Jessica’s heifers are on the lawn.  “It’s OK, I am grazing my lawn with them,” she said calmly.  You could feel the eyebrows raise over the phone from the caller.  “With milking after work, constant rain and a broken lawnmower, I figured it was time to extend my grazing paddocks to the lawn," she explained to the relieved neighbor. How did this revelation of fuel-less lawn mowing come about?  A rotational grazing strategy for dairy heifers in a nearby 20 acre field implemented by husband Matt and the need to save on feed costs, really got the ball rolling.  Jessica mirrored this system at their home and adjacent 1 1/2 acres for a few of her favorite heifers.  Portable fencing allows for subdividing this mini acreage into an efficient use of what she has to work with.  “ It just made sense to look at my lawn as forage, when daily feed costs can run upwards of 2 dollars per day” she said.  “Basically I’m cheap.  If I can get a little feed, keep my animals happy and save some gas, it all helps towards the bottom line.  Anyway, it takes me less time to set up the portable fences than it does to mow”, she said empathically. Figuring the economics on this ½ acre lawn grazing exercise with 4 heifers yielded a $42 net profit (4 head. x 1.50/day x 7 days). 

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3 thoughts on “The Cows Are Out – On the Lawn!

  1. I have used this method to achieve volume reduction on the grass that would slow down a lawn mower. A lot can be achieved in 30 minutes to an hour’s worth of grazing. It can be evened up with a mower pretty fast after that. If you focus on turning the cows in at early morning or early evening when they have major grazing periods, they seem to want to volumize on grass and do not browse on flowers and shrubs much. Calves are the first to lose interest. So when they start showing interest in flowers, move the herd out and wait til the next major graze period. Gardens do need to be protected though. Small section access with polywire works great as well. But I too have had the cows are out calls.

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